In a year in which Justin Fields leads the NFL in taking quarterback sacks, Sunday’s box score against the Falcons represents just the latest piece of evidence as to why the Bears need to re-invest in the offensive line this upcoming offseason.
Fields took four more sacks plus another five quarterback hits. And since the mini-bye, Fields has taken 17 sacks and 20 quarterback hits. Those numbers don’t include the times when Fields gets hit as a ball carrier on the run. It is all adding up. But if it is any consolation, at least we can use it as fuel to fire our desire to see the Bears add to the offensive line. We’ll bang that drum all offseason, to be sure. And with that in mind, maybe we should get an early start.
Seriously, this ain’t it. And when Baldy highlights it, you know it’s major trouble:
After watching that line performance I know you care about how the Bears can level up in the trenches. With that in mind, Matt Bowen’s ESPN piece ranking the NFL’s best free agents who could be potentially available this offseason is a must-read. It is an ESPN+ insider story, which requires a subscription and means that I won’t share too much (I want you to read the piece in its entirety for yourself). But one thing I want to underscore is that there are four offensive linemen in this top 25 ranking — and any (if not all) make sense as potential Bears targets.
Orlando Brown Jr. (Chiefs) is the second-highest-ranking player on Bowen’s list and the top offensive lineman who could make it to the open market. Kansas City swung for the fences in trading for Brown, so it would make sense to see the Chiefs re-sign him to a sizable deal. But if he isn’t, then Brown is someone the Bears could kick the tires on based on their need.
A better fit for their offense might be Elgton Jenkins, who is Bowen’s No. 3 overall free-agent-to-be and the second-best offensive lineman. You’re probably familiar with Jenkins because he plays for the Packers. And if you’ve got that familiarity going for you, then you probably know that Green Bay’s cap situation isn’t all that great. I know we said that last year about the Packers before they ended up clearing space to retain Aaron Rodgers. But let’s not forget that they also had to ship off Davante Adams, too. In other words, the Packers will likely need to let a noteworthy player leave in free agency. And that’s where the Bears could come calling.
Jenkins has experience at both tackle and guard spots. He even has time spent at center. We’ll work on the presumption that Luke Getsy is still calling shots as the offensive coordinator in 2023, which would make Jenkins an ideal fit to come over and fit right into any number of open line spots. Injuries have been an issue over the years, but a healthy Jenkins has been a darn good player.
We find Browns offensive tackle Jack Conklin down the list as Bowen’s No. 20 free-agent-to-be. Conklin, a Michigan State product, is a solid offensive tackle who would present an immediate upgrade upon arrival. However, Conklin hasn’t played a full season since 2019 and that’ll pop up as a red flag for many. Even still … Bowen describes Conklin as “an ideal fit for a run-heavy system that utilizes play-action protection” — which pretty much sums up what the Bears offense *SHOULD* be.
And to round things up, Titans guard Nate Davis comes in as the No. 22 overall free-agent-to-be. Davis sneaks into back end of the top 25 as a guard who excels in run and pass blocking. He has youth on his side, too. Davis will start the 2023 season at age 26. The combination of age, positional need, floor, and ceiling should make Davis an intriguing target the Bears should have eyes on this offseason. Of course, the Titans might want to keep him, too. But they have needs elsewhere. And former GM Mike Tannenbaum shares with Bowen that the Titans would likely let Davis walk in free agency rather than overpay him. Considering how the Bears have an estimated $125 million in space under the cap, overpaying to improve the offensive line shouldn’t be an issue.
In the end, part of me is wary of getting too attached to the notion of any of these players being Bears next year. I love the idea. And I’m into all four of these as possible targets. But we’ve seen how often the free agency markets dry up before things can get spicy. Nevertheless, it is important to have potential upgrades on our radar now. And I have a feeling this won’t be our last look into the future.